Feb 10, 2017

UT, A&M Admissions Proceed Apace Amidst Travel Ban Confusion

Reporting Texas

As the Trump administration grapples with a court order suspending its travel ban, the biggest university systems in Texas are soldiering on with the normal admissions process for applicants from the seven countries affected.

President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order imposed a 90-day suspension of visas for travelers from Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq. It also banned refugees from six of those countries for 120 days, and put an indefinite hold on refugees from Syria. The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco Thursday upheld a Washington judge’s Feb. 3 ruling that lifted the president’s ban nationwide. The Trump administration is expected to dispute the ruling, perhaps through an appeal to the Supreme Court.

In his Feb. 3 ruling, federal District Judge James Robart cited disruption of public universities as one of his reasons for suspending the ban. According to College Factual, a higher-education analytics website, more than 15,000 college students from the seven countries spent about $700 million in 2015 nationwide, including tuition, room and board, fees and other typical expenses. A January College Factual study, drawing 2015 data from the departments of Education and Homeland Security, found more than 1,200 students and $47 million in spending in Texas by students from the affected countries.

William McRaven, chancellor of the 14-campus University of Texas System, issued a statement on Jan. 30 telling students, staff and faculty from the affected countries to get advice before traveling and pointed them to their schools’ international offices for help. The system hasn’t issued further public guidance.

Reeve Hamilton, executive director of media relations for the Texas A&M University System, said in an email that officials are monitoring the immigration situation and working with individual campuses as problems arise.

At UT-Austin, with more than 50,000 students, spring admissions are being processed as usual, said Deana Williams, assistant director of the admissions department, in an interview. Most applications have been processed, with acceptance letters going out on a rolling basis, she said.

“It’s unclear going forward what the requirements will be, if any,” Williams said. “So we’re all just kind of waiting to see what happens.”

For fall 2017, she said, UT has received six undergraduate and 377 graduate applications from the seven affected nations.

Margaret Luévano, associate director of international students and scholar services for UT, said in an interview that her office is advising international students who could be affected not to leave the country.

Amy Smith, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer at Texas A&M’s flagship campus in College Station, said in a telephone interview the school is focused on “contingency” plans that look at potential scenarios and exceptions to the ban. She declined to give the numbers of applicants from the affected countries. The College Station campus has around 59,000 students. There are 11 campuses in the A&M system.

There are currently 250 students and faculty at Texas A&M who would be affected by the ban, and at Texas, 110, according to the schools’ admissions offices.

Should the ban be reinstated, newly admitted students might still be able to attend college in the U.S. Admissions offers are sent as late as May, which would be around the time the 90-day ban would have expired.

“For the incoming students the start date is in August, which would be after the 90-days of this executive order,” Luévano said. “We are just watching to see what ends up happening with this executive order to see if that time period would be extended.

An earlier version of this story noted that calls and emails to the UT system weren’t returned. That note was deleted after contacting a system spokesperson.